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Cairo project shines a light on Egypt's architectural heritage

The Mohammed Ali mosque (above) inside the Salaheddine Citadel.   -  
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In Egypt's capital, Cairo, past and present have not always mixed effortlessly. Many monuments remain out of bounds for residents.

Launched in 2012, the Athar Lina project has been fostering a sense of ownership among residents over Cairo's architectural heritage.

"“Athar Lina” is an initiative launched in 2012 to promote a sense of ownership over heritage through mutual benefit. People are proud of their heritage but this can be enhanced if we make them feel that they can somehow benefit, whether on a social, economic or spiritual level", said architect and heritage management expert, May al-Ibrashy.

From opening up monuments for children to visit, the Athar Lina project has grown to include renovation of historic buildings while also teaching women and children traditional skills.

"We are working on renovating antiquities and historic buildings to serve the community. We are also working on teaching women and children traditional professions to help them make money. We are working on industries related to heritage, which is any profession inspired by heritage", concluded the architect.

Houses with a central patio in Old Cairo, also known as patrician houses, rank among the heritage buildings most at risk.

"Beit Yakan is, like most of the other 600 (historic, Ed.) houses, not registered as a monument. Only 24 of the houses with courtyards are registered as heritage monuments", added Alaa Habashi, professor of architecture and heritage conservation at Menoufia University.

Since Egypt adopted a strict conservation policy in the 1980s that many monuments have been "locked up" and out of bounds for residents.

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